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"Errors in the De Bellis Magistrorum Militum Army Lists ?" Topic

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Paskal Supporting Member of TMP05 Feb 2024 5:30 a.m. PST

Hello everyone ,

If you are a history buff or passionate about a particular period of military history of a particular nation, have you noticed errors in dating, organizations or troop classifications in the De Bellis Magistrorum Militum Army Lists?

advocate05 Feb 2024 5:48 a.m. PST

See my comment on the DBR lists.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP05 Feb 2024 6:32 a.m. PST


Me yes!

For example, the Battle of Allia took place on July 18, 390/389 according to the Varronian chronology or in 387/386 BC according to Greek chronology.

And as everyone knows at the time of this battle the Roman army was a hoplitic phalanx, the Romans not yet knowing manipular formation and warfare, yet according to the De Bellis Magistrorum Militum Army List N°10 from Army List Book 2, the Romans would have from year 400 BC, adopted formation and warfare and even the pilum !

Except among the Romans, training in formation and warfare as well as the pilum appear around 311BC during the second Samnite war.

Whirlwind05 Feb 2024 7:19 a.m. PST

And as everyone knows at the time of this battle

I am hoping you meant this to be as funny as it sounds…

I don't know about DBMM, but I thought that IV/62 list in DBA3.0 doesn't look quite right for Anglo-Scottish and civil war type engagements: not enough non-archer infantry, too many foreign mercenary elements. So that may be the same in DBMM.

Swampster05 Feb 2024 9:14 a.m. PST

I have sometime wondered why the round date of 400 was used for the Roman list start since the Allia is cited as a likely reason for the change in formation. Whether it was truly as rapid a change as Livy would have it is obviously debatable but list writers generally have to pick a date.

I don't remember the details for the changes which resulted in the English HYW list, but I'm sure they were based on the data available for the armies, The MM list allows a player to craft a list more specifically than DBA allows (for better or worse) so it is probably more possible to get one which reflects a particular campaign more accurately.

There are certainly lists that I would change in various ways – the Roman changeover date being one of them. I would say, though, that an awful lot of work was done to create them, including contributions by people who work professionally on various periods covered.

Phillius Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Feb 2024 12:52 p.m. PST

Depends on your interpretation of what is and what isn't an error or truth?

madaxeman05 Feb 2024 12:58 p.m. PST

Which edition, 1st or 2nd ?

Swampster05 Feb 2024 1:55 p.m. PST

The very rare troop types are often restricted by date which can mean other troops may not be available with them. Snake wielding Etruscan priests, for instance.

There are lists which seem to have had their own quirk in them just for differentiation, but without that there could probably be a single list covering the steppes for a millenium or so. Sometimes, Phil's reasoning for the differences could be quirky, but it does at least mean that e.g. the Cumans, the Alans and the Bulgars each have their own pros and cons.

The troop types of DBMM also introduce granularity which much of the time is too defined, but at least one is operating within rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.

The way that troop types operate within the rules is another whole can of worms. If I were to play a historical scenario with Macedonian Companions or Norman knights, I would be tempted to tweak how they work.

lionheartrjc06 Feb 2024 1:09 a.m. PST

I think most wargamers underestimate how little we actually know about ancient warfare.

As editor of the Mortem et Gloriam army lists I am well aware that we build army lists on a foundation of sand. As it is a game what we try to do is give each army list the right "feel" (a completely intangible concept), guided by the history. This is through a combination of the army list and rules. This adds interest to the game – so we have Cumans, Alans, Bulgars etc.

What "everyone knows" often turns out to be wrong!

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2024 3:07 a.m. PST

Yes sometimes lists are laughable.

Yes, the list writers generally have to choose a date, but here they exaggerated, so for the Allia, you have to use list n°59 of book n°1. Those who propose lists for this or that period should know if it is an army or a period that fascinates them.

@Aegon the Unworthy
Yes, that's exactly it, you have to use them exactly as written for a tournament game and otherwise you can modify them if you find them to be erroneous, you give your sources and people agree. But make sure your friends agree. But the most important thing is that you must give your historical sources.

Your interpretation must be supported by historical sources, out of the question of tampering with a list or an army to beat the adversary.

Lists published in 2016.

As for very rare types of troops, in DBMM as in all rules, there is a troop scale, for DBMM it is like for DBM, an infantry or cavalry figurine worth corresponds to 64 real men .

Yes for example. the Cumans, the Alans and the Bulgarians each have their own advantages and disadvantages, I am against everything that is generic.

I understand what you are saying, the Macedonian companions and the Norman knights are riders of ruptures, but they should not function in the same way.

But how to differentiate them? There are not enough types of troops and not enough distinctions in terms of their effectiveness.

I too think that most wargamers underestimate how little we know about ancient warfare and that what "everyone thinks they know" often turns out to be wrong! But there are still some something that is obvious and I would like those who know certain periods and the DBMM lists to explain to us what is wrong and give their historical sources.

Dexter Ward06 Feb 2024 4:23 a.m. PST

Everybody knows that the Romans deployed as hoplites at the Allia?
I don't think so. This is a quote from the Oxford military history, which suggests that Camillus's reforms were already in progress at the time of the Allia, since he had been in command for ten years by that stage.
The DBMM army list has the legions downgraded to Inferior for the Allia as they were hastily raised.
Quote follows:
Rome deployed its legions expecting a swift victory but was shocked when its army was annihilated at the Battle of Allia in 390 BCE. This was only seventeen kilometers to the north of Rome, which was promptly sacked. The traumatic event prompted the building of the first defensive circuit of the city with the eleven-kilometer-long Servian Walls. In the midst of these events an appointment occurred in Rome that was to have a profound effect on the development of the Roman military system, leading to the appearance of the legionary for the first time. This was the appointment of Marcus Furius Camillus as consular tribune to command the army in 401 BCE. A patrician with extensive experience campaigning against the Aequi and Volsci, he realized Rome's incessant campaigning was proving financially unsustainable. He therefore raised taxation to a level where it could support the army on long campaigns. Then, with his Camillan Reforms of the military, he introduced the manipular system into the legions of Rome, with the legionary at its center. These developments rapidly superseded the earlier Tullian system, its defeat by the Gauls speeding up the transition to what is now called the Camillan system.

DBS30306 Feb 2024 4:47 a.m. PST

And as everyone knows at the time of this battle the Roman army was a hoplitic phalanx

Nonsense. We do NOT know this. We do not know how the Romans of this period fought. Bear in mind that "hoplite" to ancient authors often just meant "heavy infantryman" and "phalanx" just meant a close formation of infantry. Even the Carthaginians are on occasion described as "hoplites" fighting in "phalanxes", yet no one now thinks they were pseudo-Greeks.

Swampster06 Feb 2024 5:14 a.m. PST

"These developments rapidly superseded the earlier Tullian system, its defeat by the Gauls speeding up the transition to what is now called the Camillan system."

This line would suggest that the reforms weren't complete by the time of the battle. OTOH, Livy says that changes happened from when the troops began getting pay, which is before the battle – the MM list says 406 (beginning of the siege of Veii), giving a bit of time for the reforms to take effect.
However, from a list point of view, the change between Tullian and Camillan might seem quite large, but the heavy foot are still 2/3 spearmen. How you use them on the table isn't mandated by the rules, so you could still deploy them in a way which wouldn't be drastically different to a hoplite army. As Mr Dexter Ward points out, the lists also allow for the army to be mostly inferior for the Allia.

The introduction of the pilum is hazy both as far as date and origin are concerned, so it could be that it should be far later. It does seem to be in use by the mid 4th century and probably before that though.

As an instance of a dissenting view, the Wikipedia article of the Structural history of the Roman army puts the change from an Etruscan style hoplite core to a manipular structure as late as 315 following the 2nd Samnite War. I'm not going to argue in favour or against this, I only point it out to show that the dating isn't cut and dried.

Anyone playing the Allia and using the Tullian list as a basis for the Romans isn't going to be visited by the DBMM police.

Marcus Brutus06 Feb 2024 10:46 a.m. PST

But how to differentiate them? There are not enough types of troops and not enough distinctions in terms of their effectiveness.

That is a big problem in ancient rules sets. My Selecuid Cataphracts are completely equivalent to Gendarmes of the 15th century in the set I use. But as you say there aren't really enough troop types to differentiate everyone and where rules are that detailed they are often not very fun to play.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2024 3:05 a.m. PST

@Dexter Ward
The Battle of Allia took place on July 18, 390/389 according to the Varronian chronology or in 387/386 BC according to Greek chronology and training in manipular formation and manipular warfare as well as the pilum (The pilum qui est peut -être d'origine étrusque) appear around 311BC during the second Samnite war.

Relisez Tite-Live (Titus Livius).

Yes obviously the introduction of the pilum cannot be precise as to the date, but less so for its origin, but like the training in manipulative training and manipulative warfare, it dates from the end of the 4th century, and not from its beginning and it was by confronting the Samnites that the hoplitic phalanx was abandoned.

But as you say anyone playing Allia using the Tullian list as a base for the Romans will not get a visit from the DBMM police.

In 2022, I corresponded with the head of a company which manufactures and sells lead figurines to make dioramas, when I told him that I practiced wargaming, he laughed a lot…

@Marcus Brutus
Completely agree with you depending on temperaments,me it's the history that interests me.

@Aegon the Unworthy
Yes, in the context of a tournament, this is completely normal and acceptable, but still not for me because like many I hope, the first time I saw that, it made me jump just like it did with the base of the figurines.

Now I wonder if there exist or existed tournaments of a historical nature, where only armies of truly historical
opponents would face each other, even if the number of participants would be minimal?

Dexter Ward07 Feb 2024 3:55 a.m. PST

Did you not read what I posted, Paskal?
The Hastati were re-armed with Pila and swords as part of the reforms of Camillus starting in 400BC.
Manipular tactics came later.
The DBMM army list, which is the product of research by a lot of very knowledgable people, would appear to be correct.

DBS30307 Feb 2024 5:06 a.m. PST

Relisez Tite-Live (Titus Livius).

You mean the gentleman who was writing 350 years after the event? Who frequently demonstrates a lack of understanding of military detail? Who duplicates and muddles early Roman history on a an equally frequent basis?

I repeat, we simply do not know for sure how the Romans of that period fought. We certainly do not know, as you claim, that they fought in a "hoplitic phalanx."

I am sorry that you find it difficult to accept when others demolish your staunch assertions, but there is anything but certitude in such matters. You are entitled to your opinion, but please understand that your opinion does not equate to proven fact.

Swampster07 Feb 2024 11:33 a.m. PST

There are some tournaments where opponents are close to being historical, though the date range tends to be wide enough so that people are more likely to have a suitable army.

The DBMM competition at Warfare this year, for example, covers a period from the late 11th century to the early mid 14th century. Armies are limited to Eastern Europe and the Levant. One quirk of Warfare is that each army can generally only be taken once. Particular options may also be required – sometimes in a deliberate attempt to make an army less competitive if it could unbalance a theme.

I much prefer this kind of competition but not everyone does and it can exclude certain armies which are likely to rarely fit a theme. The chosen theme can also rather reflect the preferences of the organiser.

madaxeman07 Feb 2024 1:39 p.m. PST

If you are indeed looking at the 2016 lists, I would suggest that they were 100% entirely accurate at the time of publication, and so there is no need to consider the possibility they may have errors, or that they have not aged well.

To try and view these 8 year old lists in the light of any new research published since then (or indeed anything published outside of the WRG stable of authors) surely smacks of revisionism, and so anything that contradicts them should be discarded ?

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP08 Feb 2024 3:22 a.m. PST

@Dexter Ward
The Pilum with the hoplite phalanx?

Nicholas Sekunda and Simon Northwood have written and this time they are not de Livy (Titus Livius) LOL: "since the Gauls did not cause the Romans to change their formation and weaspons it is almost certain that the Samnite were responsible.

Indeed this was believed by some ancient authors.

Athenaeus wrote that "they learned the use of the scutum from the Samnites"; Sallust said that "our ancestors …took their offensive and defensive weapons from the Samnites"; and the author of the Ineditum Vaticanum wrote: "We did not have the pilum. But we fought with round shields and spear; nor were we strong in cavalry either but all or the graeter part of the Roman army was infantry.

But when we became involved in a second war with the Samnite we were equipped with the scutum and the pilum and had forced ourselve to fight as cavalry; so with foreign weapons and copied tactics and formations we enslaved those who had developed a conceited pride in themselves."

The explanation is clear for you I hope?

In their wars against the Samnites over the rough terrain of central southern Italy the roman hoplite phalanx proved to be much less effective than the more flexible formation used by the Samnite.

The latter employed a large number of smaller and more maneuverable units (maniples) of soldiers equipped with heavy javelins and the scutum.

Yes you are right, you are entitled to your opinion, but understand that your opinion does not constitute a proven fact.

Yes in any case the lists are only useful to those who compete, and also to see how certain troops are classified and even then I bet that some people would find fault with it.

Were the 2016 lists completely 100% accurate at the time of publication?

Very few lists need to be completely 100% accurate even at the time of publication.

Have there been other DBMM lists published by the WRG since 2016?

As for army lists, I only like the historical information that can be found there even when it makes me laugh like for example the DBMM list N°59 (Book IV).POST MONGOL SAMURAI 1300 AD – 1598 AD which explains to you that this list covers Japanese armies from the aftermath of the Mongol invasions to the introduction of European firearms (so there are none in this list).

So the Japanese adopted the arquebus in 1599?

Another shot of Livy (Titus Livius)?LOL.

The arquebus was brought to Japan in the fall of 1543, at the start of the Namban trade era, by Portuguese shipwrecked men on the island of Tanegashima, from which it took its Japanese name.

When they left, five and a half months later, there were more than 600 in the country.

Within a year, Japanese blacksmiths succeeded in reproducing the mechanism and began mass production of the rifles.

In 1556, Japanese people told one of the former castaways that there were more than 30,000 of them in the capital of the Bungo Kingdom (now Ōita Prefecture).

Just fifty years later after their introduction, "firearms were certainly more common in Japan than in any other country in the world"; the armies of this country are equipped with a very large number of firearms.

The famous daimyo who was the first to almost completely unify Japan, Nobunaga Oda, made intensive use of arquebuses from 1549.

They notably played a key role during the Battle of Nagashino in 1575, a battle during which he mobilized around 3,000 arquebusiers.

Can anyone else give an example of absurdities or aberrations existing in the army lists of DBMM or DBR?
It is very likely that the Japanese had already heard of arquebuses from Chinese merchants or "Wako" pirates who sailed the Sea of Japan.

Arquebuses, like other firearms, were practically all destroyed after the unification of Japan, returning to the Japanese saber considered more civilized.

Speaking of firearms, here is another example of the absurdities existing in the army lists, here is an aberration in those of DBR like the one I gave in DBMM, see list N°46 FRENCH CATHOLIC 1562 AD – 1597 AD, the French Catholic royal infantry, its mercenaries and its allies are not entitled to muskets!?

On the other hand, in list No. 45.FRENCH HUGUENOT 1562 AD -1598 AD the Huguenots have them.

If I had time, I'm sure I would find other absurdities and aberrations like this in the DBR army lists.

The musket was introduced into the French royal and Catholic infantry in 1573 by Filipo di Piero Strozzi, Lord of Espernay (1541-1582) during the siege of La Rochelle.

Indeed when he became the only Colonel General of the French infantry, and took part in the long siege of La Rochelle.

During his grand tour of France, Charles IX noticed during the interview at Bayonne that in the Spanish companies, the men had a valet to carry their musket during the marches.

The king asks Strozzi to compose a squad of his guard on this principle.

Refusing this principle, Strozzi asked the Milan gunsmiths to modify this weapon by making it lighter to allow a man to carry it without being crushed and the range of the weapons was doubled.

At first musketeers were only found in the royal regiments of the French royal and Catholic army.

Swampster08 Feb 2024 4:43 a.m. PST

I have a suspicion that the Post-Mongol Samurai date change and comment about the Korean invasion may have been made with an intent to change the content of the list but for whatever reason no further update was made. It would have brought it into line with the Ming list which does have changes which only apply outside of the stated DBMM period.

The process for producing the lists around 2010 took a _long_ time, with a huge amount of online discussion. Some of the changes were radical, many far less so. Phil was the ultimate arbiter of what went in and what didn't, though he was very open to suggestions especially from people whose opinions he valued from prior experience. Regular drafts of lists were presented for comment which not only resulted in changes to the lists but also enabled many typos to be spotted (though not all). Some stylistic changes also applied, since the original list writers often had different ways of expressing dates – 'after' and 'from' a date meaning slightly different things.

The 2016 lists were done much more rapidly. Phil accepted that changes were needed but didn't want to take as much time over them. He still accepted suggestions for revisions but generally didn't say whether they would be applied or not. This resulted in a lot less argument but could mean that some suggestions may have been overlooked rather than being deliberately rejected. At times, things were taken from a list but without knowing that it would happen, one didn't present an argument in favour of keeping the item.

There were various frustrating things about the 2016 lists, but at the end of the day someone has put a considerable amount of energy into producing them and if I really don't like them I don't have to use them.

There haven't been any new lists since 2016 – I think Phil Barker has neither the inclination nor the energy to change them. There have been a very small number of official amendments in the Lulu printing of the lists – the only ones I am aware of are a change to the BwX/BwI combination in various late lists which is not covered by the rules – the BwI have been changed to BwO.

There are list clarifications put together by various competition players/organisers from a number of countries, though these are entirely unofficial. The purpose is also to clarify ambiguous wording, point out typos such as incorrect point values and such like. They are not intended to change the contents of the list as such, even if something does appear wrong. One such is that the Pergamene allies for the Polybian Romans have probably been accidentally placed in the wrong line, meaning that they are not available for periods when they should be.

All of the competitions that I am aware of use the lists as they are, warts and all. A few very minor tweaks might apply, the main one being that a very few competitions have altered what baggage is available, but that is more of a rule change than a list change.

Regarding the origin of the pilum, link is a worthwhile read, if only to show that the origins are very much in doubt; the classical writers do not agree with each other and the archaeology isn't very helpful. There is even a suggestion that the Gauls may be the origin of the weapon though it is still possible that the Romans adopted it as a result of contact with one of their Italian enemies rather than directly from the Gauls.
See also link

The change from round to oval shield also has its fuzziness regarding date, inspiration etc. Classical authors again do not show a consensus and the archaeology is also rather vague. The introduction of link sums up the uncertainty, giving possible dates as early as Tullius and as late as the Samnite wars. It also says the manipular system may have been introduced c.396 (essentially what DBMM has gone with) or later. Maniples are mentioned just after the 1st SW.

My French isn't good enough to read this paper link easily. Despite the title , it also goes into Roman military developments and I think this is worth mentioning (if it says what I think it does!)
"Rappelons simplement que les Samnites jouent un rôle particulier dans la tradition romaine puisque ce serait de ce peuple que les Romains auraient adopté scutum et pilum. D. Briquel montre que la tradition n'est pas unanime sur cette question, mais qu'elle est une itération d'un topos plus large : les Romains n'hésitent pas à adopter les coutumes, les insignes, les armes etles organisations militaires des peuples qu'ils vainquent. Au final, les conclusions de D. Briquel indiquent que ces textes sont d'une faible valeur historique dès lors que l'on cherche à étudier l'histoire de l'armement de la légion romaine"

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP09 Feb 2024 6:33 a.m. PST

You are too kind for me, some lists should not have been published as is.

The lists only serve me for the classification of troops, there are much fewer problems and even many improvements compared to the lists of older rules.

Concerning the origin of the pilum, could the Gauls be at the origin of the weapon?

The Celts never used heavy throwing weapons and in my opinion also YES the Romans adopted it following contact with one of their Italian enemies, the famous Samnites or the no less famous Etruscans and I would lean towards the latter.

D. Briquel shows what he wants and others before him wanted to demonstrate other things, each researcher has his definitions, it is impossible to know what it is!

Swampster09 Feb 2024 9:23 a.m. PST

"The Celts never used heavy throwing weapons"
They had a weapon generally known as a gaesum, which was about 1.8m long and about 2cm in diameter, though it was thickest in the middle and thinned out towards the ends.

There are finds of solid iron javelins in Languedoc and Aquitaine which predate finds in the Iberian peninsula – the Spanish soliferrum/saunion is (according to Wikipedia at least) descended from weapons taken there by the Gauls.
In old WRG speak, the saunion counted as a heavy throwing weapon.

So they had a weapon of a similar (though not identical) form to the pilum. It seems pretty much the same as the iron spears shown in the Etruscan Giglioli tomb, Whether the Gauls adopted it from Italians or v.v. is another matter.

Dagwood09 Feb 2024 1:59 p.m. PST

The Roman "Hoplite army" had some classes with hoplon and other classes with scutum in the same army. Similarly the pilum was found amongst Etruscan hoplite-era armies.

Ancient warfare wasn't cut and dried into clear sections, it was far more blurred !!

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP10 Feb 2024 7:48 a.m. PST

Yes I had forgotten the gèse (Latin gaesum), which was used by the Gauls. This heavy throwing weapon consisted of a wooden handle 130 cm long on which a long iron point of around 70 cm was placed. This iron spike was supposed to prevent the enemy from cutting the pole with a sword. The broad blade itself was approximately 20 cm long. It also seems that its handling was quite difficult. It comes from Gaul or Macedonia*.

At the beginning of the 5th century BC, the Romans also adopted it for their light troops**. It no longer seems to be used on battlefields around 100 AD

For what you say next, be careful now we enter the field of troop classification in DBMM and there too there is something to discuss LOL

*Marie-Jeanne Roulière-Lambert, Alain Daubigney, Pierre-Yves Milcent, De l'âge du Bronze à l'âge du Fer en France et en Europe, 2000, p. 24

** Sylvie Laigneau, Rome et les barbares, 1998, p. 32

Yes at the beginning but I read that later the Roman "Hoplite army" only had classes with hoplon and long lances, plus the ancestors of the velites in the same army and yes the pilum was found among Etruscan infantry before the Roman infantry.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP11 Feb 2024 10:14 a.m. PST

I now know where the misunderstanding comes from regarding the DBMM list N°59 (Book IV)POST MONGOL SAMURAI 1300 AD – 1598 AD, just compare it with the DBM list N°59 (Book IV)POST MONGOL SAMURAI 1300 AD – 1542 AD.

Did you guess ?

Dagwood11 Feb 2024 12:21 p.m. PST


Don't believe everything you read.

Your description of a gaesum sounds suspiciously like a pilum.

Evidence for it coming from Macedonia ? I would really love to mix some HTW with my pike phalanx for them to throw !!

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2024 2:56 a.m. PST

You're right and the more you research, the more you find different opinions LOL

Swampster14 Feb 2024 2:32 a.m. PST

"Your description of a gaesum sounds suspiciously like a pilum."

That is rather the point. There are pilum-like spears found in a Gallic context. Their date means that it is unclear whether they were a Gallic thing brought to Italy, an Italian thing adopted by the Gauls or (rather unlikely) a parallel evolution.

More certainly Gallic, and generally given the name gaesum is the whole iron javelin. Soliferrum, soliferreum and saunion refer to the same thing. Some of these date to the 6th century BC in SW France. There is some doubt as to whether gaesum is always used by ancient writers to refer to the 'heavy throwing weapon' type of javelin but it seems to at least some of the time.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2024 2:46 a.m. PST

"Your description of a gaesum sounds suspiciously like a pilum."

I know but that's not my description and I gave my sources.

Ah where are the good old days of the HTW LOL.

Swampster14 Feb 2024 10:24 a.m. PST

@Paskal – I was writing in support of what you'd put!

"De l'âge du Bronze à l'âge du Fer en France et en Europe" is available online link The chapter on Gésates et gaesum is very handy. It doesn't have page numbers though, so I'm not sure which bit your are referencing. The only bit about Macedonia I can see doesn't say that the gaesum comes from there, only that the pilum is to the Romans what the gaesum is to the Gauls and the sarissa is to the Macedonians.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2024 12:53 a.m. PST

For this type of weapon the HTW, it's a hodgepodge, we understand why the WRG had classified them in a single class !
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